Perfectly placed as American Ballet Theatre’s culminating piece, Christopher Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions begins with a bang!
Eight couples of corp de ballet dancers--suited in black--ripple to their positions. Their complex, geometric formations forge the performance space for the four main couples.
These couples--suited in grey-- enter one by one and finally the duo that we have been waiting for enters the stage: Misty Copeland partnered by Joo Won Ahn. Among the sea of dancers Copeland’s presence engulfs the stage. Every cell in her body breathes and every step is executed with passionate precision.
A spritely duet between two main female dancers, Catherine Hurlin and April Giangeruso cuts the intensity. They danced with unquestionable synchronicity!
All dancers performed with bionic perfection and if it were not for the sound of their breath we forget that they are actually human. They make Wheeldon’s demanding choreography look easy. A moment where female corp de ballet members are expected to be partnered by their male counterparts are teasingly left to exit the stage solo. This is one of the few subtle insertions of unexpected humor provide all--the dancers, the audience--moments of relief.
Songs of Bukovina
Songs of Bukovina was the evening’s gentle and warm welcoming.
In this piece, the dancers’ light and flowy movements choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky coupled perfectly with music by Leonid Desyatnikov played live by piano soloist, Brad Fields. The music came to dimensional life with each corp de ballet member representing a musical note. Christine Shevchenko--outfitted in a bright red-- takes the stage with joyous pride. Her extension is jaw-dropping--she kicks and leaps as if her limbs have no end. Calvin, Royal III, the male lead, dances full-heartedly. His extension, like Shevchenko's is breathtaking. To this writer, they are the perfect pair.
The Two Pas De Deux
The remainder of the program sandwiched between this warm opening and bang of a finale were two pas de deux.
Hee Seo and James Whiteside perform Marius Petipa’s iconic pas de deux from the ballet, Don Quixote. Ballet lovers and serious enthusiasts are likely to know this choreography by heart. Our expectations are high. The pas de deux was performed with unrestrained energy. Seo’s solo delivered the perfect measurement of sass. Whiteside’s spellbinding presence demands our attention. He soars through the air with impressive amounts of hang time and his series of turns did not falter.
The other pas de deux, choreographed by Antony Tudor, was performed by principal dancer Stella Abrera partnered by corp de ballet member Aran Bell.
Abrera seduces us with her emotive presence. Our attention no longer focuses on the technicality of the movement instead on the rush of emotions we feel from watching her journey on stage. Bell’s presence series of pirouettes are executed effortlessly and his partnering skills allow Abrera to shine.
Overall, the progression of the evening-in this writer’s opinion- may have seemed slightly random as there was no clear, overarching theme. For others, the range of styles in the four pieces might be seen as a major plus. Because four pieces were vastly different it allowed all to experience the many faces of Ballet from the classics to the contemporary.
This writer highly recommends seeking out future performances by American Ballet Theatre (ABT)--both for serious students of dance and relative newcomers to the art form. Usually ABT returns to Chicago at least yearly. To find out more about ABT and to bookmark their schedule of upcoming performances visit the American Ballet Theatre website.
Tuli Bera is a performance artist based in Chicago. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She currently dances with Project Ishti led by Preeti Veerlapati and Kinnari Vora. Most recently she danced in their new work, "Prakriti" which premiered at the 2017 Chicago Fringe Festival. Bera works as Aerial Dance Chicago's program coordinator and is also the director of J e l l o Performance Series housed by Links Hall and Elastic Arts. This is an artistic platform that provides opportunities for Chicago artists to show their work. For more information about The Series Website.